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Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

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Of special interest are the two eastern European countries, Albania and East Germany, which did not liberalize their laws and did not experience any appreciable decline in natality. Tietze (123), whose data for Europe have been updated and used for a part of Figure 7, feels that the difference in natality trends between the two groups of countries is sufficiently striking and that, with the demographic and social similarities between these countries, he concludes that "the legalization of abortion has had a depressant effect on the birth rate in most of the countries concerned."
This study has emphasized two major themes for policy formation. First, there is no question that prevention of pregnancy through effective contraception is much wiser and safer than termination of pregnancy through abortion. Second, for reasons that vary from one country to another with the dynamics of fertility transition, a margin of induced abortion is to be anticipated and provided for. It follows that the most rational procedure for the regulation of fertility and, hence, population growth, involves both (a) the development of aggressive and effective contraceptive programs, and (b) the creation of a permissive atmosphere wherein abortion is widely available and performed in the safety of adequate medical facilities and with the sanction of law.
Inasmuch as abortion is a crucial ramification of the so-called population problem, responsible policymakers can no longer afford to ignore the demographic, economic, and health consequences of restrictive abortion laws. When the motivation to limit fertility is high and even the most effective contraceptive methods frequently fail, such antiquated laws serve to encourage rather than curb the many abuses of induced abortion. At a minimum, policymakers should move immediately to recognize the personal nature of a decision to abort an unwanted pregnancy, and to respect the discretion of the woman and her physician. In developing countries where the many problems of illicit abortion are coupled with those of high fertility and overburdening population growth, policymakers may be forced to pursue a more rational, more imaginative, and perhaps even drastic course. While the particular issues raised by abortion abuses, unwanted children, and excessive population growth may differ from country to country, in nearly all countries the policy decisions required to treat these issues will entail the following steps:
1. Policymakers must recognize that induced abortion is a popular and universal practice which poses profound problems for societies and individuals alike. Beyond doubt, abortion is a worldwide problem. The nature and extent of the problem, as well as its determinants and solutions, differ from one group of countries to another.
The transitional societies face by far the worst dilemma of all; they have a problem every way they turn. On the one hand, if they do not have a